In Moscow and numerous other Russian cities, thousands of people responded to the appeal of the imprisoned oppositionist Alexei Navalny to protest against President Vladimir Putin. Around 10,000 people took part in an unauthorized demonstration in Moscow. The police forcefully dispersed the people and arrested numerous protesters, including Navalny’s wife Julia and his closest colleague, the lawyer Lyubov Sobol.
In the center of the Russian capital, the demonstrators gathered on Pushkin Square before moving on to the Kremlin. The thousands of protesters included many young and middle-class people. Activists and journalists complained that the Internet was being throttled. Videos of security forces who attacked protesters with batons circulated on social networks.
Navalny’s wife Julia Navalnaya reported her arrest through her channel on the online service Instagram. From a police prisoner transporter she published a picture of herself, which she provided with the message: “Please excuse the poor image quality. The light in the police transporter is very bad.”
The number of arrests nationwide stated the civil rights organization OWD at more than 1,600. The Russian authorities are threatening heavy fines for participating in the unauthorized rallies. Numerous supporters of the opposition politician had already been arrested in the past few days.
Navalny called for protests against Putin after he was arrested on Sunday last week immediately after his return from Germany to Russia. The 44-year-old was treated in Berlin after a poison attack in August. On Monday, a Russian court ruled that he was sentenced to 30 days in prison for violating probation conditions. Navalny blames the Kremlin for the assassination attempt. The 44-year-old is now in the notorious Matrosskaya Tishina maximum security prison, where several opposition members have already died.
Calls for the release of the Kremlin critic
Nationwide, numerous people followed Nawalny’s call to protest on Sunday. The first rallies took place in the Far East of Russia and in Siberia, where, according to the civil rights organization OWD, around 200 people were arrested.
About 2,000 people demonstrated in the center of St. Petersburg. The re were also numerous arrests there. In Jaktustk, northern Russia, demonstrators defied extremely winter temperatures of minus 50 degrees and took to the streets for Navalny’s release. In the Pacific coastal metropolis of Vladivostok, the demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Freedom for Navalny” and “Putin is a thief”.
“People who peacefully exercise their right to assembly and freedom of expression must not be criminalized,” said the Foreign Ministry in Vienna in a tweet on Saturday afternoon. The protests in Russia are being followed closely and all commitments by the Council of Europe and the OSCE are expected to be honored.
Navalny and his supporters accuse the Kremlin of corruption, among other things. This week, Nawalny’s team published research on a luxury palace allegedly owned by Putin and financed by bribes. The video has been viewed nearly 68 million times since Tuesday. The Kremlin has denied the allegations made there.
Both the poison attack and the arrest of Navalny after his return to Moscow had sparked international outrage. The EU and the US demanded the immediate release of the Kremlin critic. After Navalny was arrested, the voices grew louder after the German-Russian pipeline project Nord Stream 2 was discontinued. The EU Parliament on Thursday called for a construction freeze on the line and sanctions against those involved in the crackdown on Navalny and other Russian opposition members. (afp / dpa / apa)
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Thousands Navalny supporters antiPutin protests Wiener Zeitung Online